'No goodies to give away' - Minister George Vella

Labour stalwart George Vella is happy in his current role as Foreign Minister, and his enthusiasm for international politics is evident. But does he rule out the possibility of becoming the next President?

Foreign Affairs Minister George Vella (Photo: Ray Attard/MediaToday)
Foreign Affairs Minister George Vella (Photo: Ray Attard/MediaToday)

Despite being the oldest minister in Joseph Muscat's Cabinet, Foreign Affairs Minister George Vella retains the enthusiasm and energy of a man half his age, and his knowledge and understanding of world politics is truly impressive.

And the 71-year-old is a very busy man of late. Since taking office last year, Vella has had a hectic timetable, with the armed conflict in Syria, the deadly clashes in Ukraine and the instability in Libya taking up much of his and his fellow EU foreign ministers' time.

However, as the recent MaltaToday survey on ministers' popularity showed, the foreign affairs portfolio is not the most rewarding. Thirty-four percent of respondents could not judge him, indicating that a large section of the electorate do not perceive the foreign affairs minister as having a direct bearing on their lives.

While most Cabinet members maintain close contact with the electorate through their everyday activities, Vella spends most of his time dealing with ambassadors and ministers from around the globe, giving him little visibility.

However, Vella can count himself lucky because he will be spared any possible electoral blushes, since last year's elections were his last. Yet, this does not necessarily mean that in four years time, the Zejtun family doctor will be a retired man.

His name is among those being touted to replace outgoing President George Abela at San Anton, and I cannot resist asking him whether there was any truth in these rumours.

"I'm not really interested in what is being said. I have not been approached, I have not engaged in any discussions and I feel at home here. I enjoy my job and things are getting done. If the Prime Minister takes a decision and makes a proposal, then I would sit down and consider it," Vella says.

The minister is however less reluctant to speak on the quandary which all foreign ministers face, with Vella insisting that the nature of his job makes it difficult for people to appreciate his performance.

"The job of a foreign affairs minister does not include inaugurations or initiating programmes which benefit the people directly. The foreign affairs minister is a facilitator. If a double taxation agreement is signed with another country, there's nothing in it for me but the economy reaps the benefits, if an aviation agreement is signed, tourism the main beneficiary."

With a smile on his face, he adds that, "luckily I will not be contesting the next elections, however all previous foreign ministers struggled to get re-elected because they have no goodies to give away and what they deliver is not visible. But I must admit that it's a very interesting job and it gives great satisfactions."

Read the full interview in MaltaToday